My Experience Earning the ASP Designation
I believe college and other forms of higher education can be very important in the process of achieving your career goals. That being said, once the classes and exams end that is where the studying turns into practical application, and in my opinion, more important lessons are learned.
Still being very new to the safety field, I continue to learn every day from those around me. My first months out of school were very stressful, but as most new situations go I began to catch on and be more comfortable in my position. Having more free time outside of work I decided I wanted to work towards some type of training or certification to help further my career as well as continue to learn.
Since many of the designations or certifications in the safety field require three to five years’ experience to apply for, one of my only options was the Associate Safety Professional designation.
In October of last year I began the process of applying for, studying, and taking the Associate Safety Professional exam. I took and passed the ASP exam this past December when I was eligible to sit for it. The purpose of this article is to give some insight for anyone who is unsure about the process. I did not have anyone who I interacted with often who recently took the exam, so I had many questions.
Applying for the Exam
After deciding to begin the process of earning the ASP, the first step is applying to be eligible to sit for the exam. BCSP charges $160.00 to apply for the exam. The basic requirements are as followed (directly pulled from BCSP.org):
All individuals applying for the ASP must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in any field from an accredited institution; or an associate degree in safety, health, or environmental from an accredited institution. Experience Requirement:
ASP candidates must have one year professional safety experience to sit for the ASP exam.
The application process is rather straight forward. It is much like a resume where they ask you to provide details on your experience. They want to ensure that the majority of your duties of the position(s) you list relate directly to safety functions. As for education experience, you must have electronic copies of your transcripts to provide them. Within two weeks of applying, I received a confirmation that I was eligible to sit for the exam.
Scheduling the Exam
You can choose to study first and not worry about scheduling the test immediately after receiving acceptance to sit for it. You have a year from getting acceptance after applying to sit for the test. The other option is to buy and schedule the test to help avoid procrastination. I did the latter. Once you are accepted to sit for the test you are able to “purchase” the exam and schedule the date you take it. Basically purchasing the exam just means schedule it.
Once you purchase the exam you receive a code that will allow you to access testing times and dates at a Pearson Vue Testing Center. (Note: Your code will not be recognized for a little bit after purchase until Pearson receives the confirmation). Do not be scared to pick an aggressive date, you can change it any time before 24 hours of taking it without losing the exam cost.
Studying for the Exam
Studying is one task that can be approached in many different ways. I cannot tell you what way is effective for you to study, but I will outline what process I followed.
I chose to give myself a month and a half to study for the exam. From what I read online people cited to shoot for anywhere from 40 to 100 hours of studying for the ASP. I chose 50 hours and tracked it to keep myself on target. First, it is important to do some research and find study materials that are effective. Any Google search will turn up some helpful results. After reading some forum posts, I decided to buy three different books. I purchased:
1. Safety and Health for Engineers by Roger Brauer ($100, Amazon.com)
2. Safety Professional’s Reference and Study Guide, 2nd Edition by David Yates ($100, Amazon.com)
3. The SPAN ASP Self Study Workbooks ($275, www.spansafetyworkshops.com/self-study-books.php)
I started off with just the first two textbooks, which read very similar to most college textbooks. Out of the two I preferred Safety and Health for Engineers. It is well written and informative. Even though I am pretty good at taking tests I very quickly realized the enormity of topics that could be on the exam. I turned to the SPAN study books for a more focused guide to what could be on the ASP.
After reading the first two textbooks and making a lot of notecards to study, I used the SPAN books to assess my knowledge. There are two books included in the $275 dollar package and combined have different sections with a total of over 600 or 700 practice test questions. At the end of each section there are answers and explanations for every question. To pass the ASP you need around 60% I believe it is. Sounds easy right? Not so much, definitely put effort into studying!
Each section I answered the questions to the best of my ability and calculated the percentage right to see where I was at in relation to the 60% mark. Honestly, especially towards the beginning of doing this, I was closer to the 60% mark than 100%. The explanations for each question were great and I ended up creating another 200 or so notecards with information I wanted to focus on more.
Do not get intimidated by topics you are not familiar with. Learning new things and challenging yourself is part of the ASP process. The first section of the SPAN study books was physics and I did terrible. First thought through my head was “there is no way I am going to pass this”. Trust me, it gets less intense.
The biggest thing I realized is do not waste a large amount of time on things you are having excessive difficultly picking up. There were certain calculations I could not grasp and I finally decided to move on and focus on things that I did not know but could learn and understand. There are 200 questions on the exam and if you spend 20% of your time studying trying to learn one calculation or rule there may not even be a question on it!
Now I do not want to make it seem like I am telling you just to go through the motions and just do enough to pass the test. My logic is, if you work in a box manufacturing setting and you cannot grasp how to calculate radiation dose or half-life then do not get worked up over it. It will not affect you excessively on the test and it is not something you probably are using daily in your particular area of safety.
I do not want to go into a lot of detail of what questions were on my exam since it may conflict with BCSP’s ethic guidelines. But to wrap up studying, just put in the time and do not worry about single topics such as calculations and math. There is not an excessive amount of any one topic on the exam. You can get a better idea of exam topics on the BCSP website.
Taking the Exam
Like I said earlier- you need to go to a Pearson Vue testing center to take the exam. You can find a location that is close to you on their website. It is important to show up early to get signed in for the exam. When I went there were around 10 other people taking exams, however only one or two were taking the ASP/CSP. The others were taking tests such as the GMAT.
Pearson takes the process very seriously. You have to lock up all of your belongings before going into the testing room, except for a calculator. BRING A CALCULATOR! There are approved models listed on the BCSP website. I like and used the Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS calculator. You are actually allowed to bring two in and I did so out of paranoia that one would die on me. They provided me with a dry erase board and marker to do math or whatever else on.
The actual exam is on the computer and has a five hour time limit. There are 200 multiple choice questions (A through D) on the exam. You are able to “flag” questions and go back to any question at any point in time. Take advantage of the flag feature and jot notes down of what questions were what numbers so if an answer hits you later in the exam you can efficiently go back to it without wasting much time. There were many questions that a couple answers were right, but you had to select the best answer. Because of this, I was starting to feel a little unsure of what the outcome of my exam was going to be.
After you click “Submit Test” you do not get your results. You have to walk out of the testing center and they print out the results and place them face down on a desk. For me, it was a 30 foot walk to my printed results, but it honestly felt like 300 feet. I turned the paper over and I saw RESULT: PASS. It was an awesome feeling.
In summary, higher education and training help you start and propel your career however, real world experience and continually learning really push you to higher levels of development (in my opinion). As I said before, I am just starting my career and I am learning every single day. Take advantage of those around who you want to be like and ask questions. Take initiative to go after designations and certifications like the ASP outside of work to continually learn and develop. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions about the ASP process.